Even though the office of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not mention Taiwan as a possible stop on her Asian tour in a statement issued on Sunday, some media outlets including CNN are quoting Taiwanese sources as saying that Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan. Yet, Taiwan’s Presidential Office and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo-based newsmagazine Nikkei speculated that the U.S. may be deploying many assets, including aircraft carriers, near Taiwan to possibly create a buffer zone to protect Pelosi’s aircraft as it flies to Taiwan.
Should Pelosi arrive in Taiwan, it would be the first time that an American official as high as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has set foot in Taiwan, which is considered Chinese soil by Beijing. China sternly warned Washington against the trip weeks ago. Over a phone call with his American counterpart on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed “resolutely” to safeguard China's territorial integrity. Moreover, President Xi explicitly warned that “those who play with fire will get burned”.
Following the phone call between the presidents of the two countries, the Chinese army launched a military exercise off the coast of Taiwan, which was fully televised in China. Moreover, China’s Foreign Ministry cautioned the Americans that the Chinese military will not sit idly by and see the visit take place.
While it was expected that both sides would defuse the verbal tensions, and it was speculated that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan will be canceled, it seems that the Speaker is intending to stop in Taiwan. Although the U.S. has acknowledged the ‘One China’ policy, the controversial trip indicates that the White House is embracing the prospect of mounting tensions with China. Perhaps Joe Biden assumes that this saber-rattling adventure will improve his declining popularity among Americans and would draw the attention of his harsh critics away from his domestic performance.
Following the strong warnings by the Beijing, a question has popped up in everyone’s mind: Will we see another crisis erupt in East Asia while the Ukrainian crisis looms large?